Netanyahu expected to announce government on Wednesday

Netanyahu has until midnight on Tuesday to formed a government after President Herzog gave him a 10-day extension.

 Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a suspected terror attack near the entrance to Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Nearly two months after the November 1 election, Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce tomorrow to President Isaac Herzog that he has formed a government, according to numerous media reports.

Almost two months after the election on November 1, Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to go to President Isaac Herzog to tell him that he has managed to cobble together a new government, according to Israeli media reports.

Once the proposed government and coalition agreements are presented to Knesset, the incoming prime minister will have a week to swear it in but as the Knesset plenum only convenes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and with the announcement expected later on Wednesday – the government will only be able to gain the Knesset’s confidence on Monday, at the earliest. It must then be sworn in by the following Monday, January 2.

Netanyahu officially has until Wednesday at midnight to make the announcement to Herzog and he still has an option to ask for an additional four-day extension over the 10 he already received but it is less likely that he will need the extra days, as the incoming coalition has ample time to finish passing into law the three bills laws that it sought to enact before the government takes power.

The three laws are:

  1. 1. An amendment to the Basic Law, the Knesset that was passed on Monday and cancels the clause that enabled four MKs to break away from an existing party and form a new party of their own.
  2. 2. An amendment of the Police Law to allow incoming national security minister and Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir to gain wider control over many aspects of policing.
  3. 3. Two amendments to the Basic Law, the Government:
Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

• The “Deri Law,” which would enable Shas chairman MK Arye Deri to serve as a minister despite his conviction for tax offenses.

• The “Smotrich Law,” to enable RZP chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich to serve as a second minister in the defense ministry with responsibility for civilian matters in the West Bank.

The Deri and Smotrich Laws, which are being debated together since both are amendments to the same Basic Law, are currently being prepared for their final reading in the ad-hoc Knesset committee led by Likud MK Shlomo Karhi.

The amendment to the Police Law passed its first reading in the Knesset plenum on Tuesday afternoon in a 63-53 vote.

Ben-Gvir's law passed first reading

The law regulates the division of power between the police commissioner and the minister who oversees him. It dictates that the commissioner is answerable to the government and is subordinate to the minister. In mitigation, it also determines that the commissioner is the highest commanding rank in the police.

The law also grants the national security minister control over the police's policy and "general principles for its operation."

The minister will also “outline a general policy regarding investigations, including the determination of general priorities, after hearing the position of the Attorney-General and after consultating with the commissioner and police officers in charge of investigations.”

The minister may also outline policy regarding the duration of the treatment of cases, under similar conditions.

The law passed its first reading after being prepared throughout the past week following lengthy discussions at a special ad-hoc Knesset committee that was formed specifically for this purpose. The discussions were accompanied by two deputies to the attorney-general, who both argued that the law did not strike an appropriate balance between the minister’s power and the police’s independence.

Ben-Gvir refused a proposal by the deputies to add a clause to the law that would ensure the police’s independence and would not act according to political whims.

The majority of former police commissioners and other experts, including outgoing Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev (Labor),voiced their concern over the law’s implications, arguing that it would give Ben-Gvir unchecked power.

Another argument was that the law was unnecessary since the public security minister already had the power to dictate policy, and Ben-Gvir’s insistence on enacting it only emphasized his inexperience and lack of understanding of the workings of the ministry that he is about take over.

A third argument was that even if there were value in amending the Police Law, this should not be done in fast-tracked legislation, and the only reason it is being fast-tracked is because Ben-Gvir does not trust that Netanyahu who might now push for the bill to pass once the government is sworn in.

Bar Lev harshly criticized the law in the plenum debate, arguing that its aim was to turn the police commissioner into a “puppet” and enable Ben-Gvir to become involved in operational matters.

Bar Lev charged that Ben-Gvir would use his new-found powers to enact racist policy that would differentiate between Jewish and Arab disturbers of the peace.

“Only a minister who lacks self-confidence, who lacks understanding and leadership, demands that his powers be determined by law on the eve of taking office. Even if the appointed minister feels the need to do so due to his lack of experience or understanding, this is not the law presented to you here,” Bar Lev said.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during the plenum debate that the law was a “smokescreen”, and that it was intended to blur the fact that not only was there no trust between Ben-Gvir and Netanyahu, there was also no trust between the incoming minister and the top police brass including, Commissioner Kobi Shabtai. Gantz accused Ben-Gvir of acting to undermine Shabtai and said that eventually he would fire him.

“This basic harm to the police, the attempt to terrorize the commissioner and insert politics into the police while questioning its professional integrity, will exact a heavy price,” Gantz said.

“The police’s battle should be in the streets and against crime gangs, not in politics. Do not bring this carcass into the room. Do not make the police political, weak, scared and divided,” the outgoing defense minister said.

Ben-Gvir said at the opening of the debate that the law would strengthen Israeli democracy, as it would give the minister the authority to direct the police in a manner that will enhance personal safety. He criticized the opposition for opposing the law only because he was the one who would benefit from it.

“The amendment we are bringing is a blessing to democracy where the minister and the government are the ones who set policy, but democracy does not interest you, because you have never been democrats. You are dark people, you are illiberal people, you are people who are unable to accept that there are different opinions, you are people who do not act according to a democratic system of government, because democracy is too much for you,” Ben-Gvir accused.